Dianthe Cable has been playing the organ at Kirksville churches for 62 years, but she’s only ever had three lessons.
Cable began being the organ in 1956 at Trinity Episcopal Church, just a block up the street from where she plays today. At the time, she knew how to play the piano and had learned coordination from tap-dancing and playing the accordion at the same time, but had no experience with the organ.
“My high school music teacher came up to me when I was a senior in high school. She said, ‘My husband is graduating from ATSU and I played the organ at Trinity Episcopal Church. We’re moving, and you’re my replacement,’” Cable said. “So the Christian Church came and helped with three lessons on the little organ, and I was turned loose after that.”
Cable had a gift for the organ and was a quick learner. She began filling in as needed for other churches and at funeral homes. She started playing at First Methodist in 1968 and has been there ever since.
“I think it was a God thing,” Cable said. “I look back now and realize that it was more or less a calling.”
First Methodist held a special service for Cable on Sept. 30 to celebrate her 50 years, with a receptionto recognize her dedication. She also gave the sermon, reminiscing on the eight pastors she’s worked with, and the featured music was her favorite songs.
Cable said she appreciated the honor from her church community.
“I think they appreciate it, and I appreciate them because they put up with me,” Cable joked.
Lynae McFarland helped organize the service, which she said was intended to honor Cable for being a selfless contributor to the church.
“Dianthe is gracious and genuine, she is selfless, she is humble,” McFarland said.
McFarland said Cable writes personal thank-you cards to everyone who sings with her at First Methodist Church.
“We all love her and appreciate her,” McFarland said.
Throughout the years, Cable has played the organ at all types of occasions. Funerals are a major one — she said at one point she was playing over 100 funerals per year — but so are weddings. Despite her years of experience, she still goes into church every Saturday to practice the organ; she doesn’t have one at home.
“I figure over the years I’ve played for 10,000 to 11,000 services,” Cable said.
Cable said her organ playing responsibilities have slowed down over the years as the use of recorded music has become more common at occasions like funerals, which she said she’s “eternally grateful” for. She still plays two services on Sunday, in addition to many choir rehearsals throughout the week.
Cable also plays in two bell choirs, one for First Methodist and one which plays on a volunteer basis at area nursing homes. Sarah Stock, First Methodist’s bell choir director, has known Cable for most of her life.
“Dianthe is a wonderful musician and she’s been totally committed to the church for 50 years,” Cable said.
Cable now has arthritis in her right hand, which makes it more difficult to reach some of the organ’s keys, but she has no intention of giving up her regular playing.
“My feet still work and my left hand still works real good,” Cable said. “I enjoy it, I enjoy being part of church services.”
Over the years, Cable said she has had to learn many new contemporary praise songs, but she doesn’t mind the adjustment.
“I’m willing to learn,” Cable said. “You never get too old to learn.”